Over the last three or four months I’ve encountered a number of LARPEers who do not wish to directly be identified as participants in the hobby. The reason for this is associated with the general lack of understanding for what LARP is in mainstream UK society. LARP is portrayed as strange, odd, geeky, and worst of all dangerous. Too often getting wrapped up in claims of devil worship and abusive behaviour.

Yet I know that LARPers are good people.

So how do we account for the difference between reality and perception?

The difference is that people know what they are used to and accept what they are used. Anything else is the subject to prejudice – especially if it looks a little different to the norm.

Oddly enough though LARP is just like the norm. Lets compare LARPers to sports players and fans. I’ll focus on football (soccer) – it is after all a game that is known all over the world.

LARP is odd because of the make-up

Immersive LARPs make use of make-up to create atmosphere and effect.

Football fans have taken to face painting to support their teams and gain an emotional effect

Is there a difference?

LARPers wear strange clothes

LARP can involve costume and the costumes are set for the period / genre of the game. Unless the game is modern day these are certainly what we’d call street clothes.

Footballers and football fans wear uniform to distinguish themselves from other people. In effect they are in costume not everyday wear for most people.

LARPers get unnaturally involved in the lore of the game.

To take part in a story it is necessary to understand the background of the story- its mythos and internal logic. Lore is an unavoidable part of portraying something in a fiction.

Lore is part of football. The game statistics, events in previous games, the likes and foibles of players, managers and owners. Football is a story told daily in the mass media.

Football and LARP both cannot escape lore.

LARP causes obsessive behaviour.

LARP causes involvement. You cannot successfully play a LARP without getting emotionally involved. For some people this goes too far. For most it does not.

It’s a state of being that is associated with game playing. You cannot play a game and enjoy it without some sort of emotional buy-in.

Which is why you see it in Football players, pundits and fans too.

LARPers are devil worshippers

LARP involves the creation of stories. Stories are not necessarily set in a Christian context or tell the story of some one working against “demonic entities”. Its easy to see how confusion could ensue if you are not aware that LARP is story telling.

How could this connect with football?

In Football fans I see a religious like behaviour. Fans demonify the opposition. They pray that lead players will win over the opposition. They curse the opposition.

Yet because it is done in a context that is easy to understand there appears to be no problem.

It should be pointed out that football has existed for hundreds of years – and that the mass followed form is around a 150 years old. Perhaps LARP just needs more time. It’s only been around since the 1980’s, making it pretty young. Perhaps LARP just needs time to be understood.

Many thanks to Flickr user Paolo Camera for the picture used in this article. Click here for full photo details

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